“The Shadow of the Pomegranate” Reveals the Surprising History of Henry VIII’s First Wife
Thanks to Anne Boleyn’s fiery personality and overall appeal to modern women, most of Tudor-based fiction and media revolves around Henry VIII’s infamous second wife. But what about his long-suffering first wife, Katherine of Aragon? Jean Plaidy’s historical novel The Shadow of the Pomegranate peels away the usual stereotypes of Katherine of Aragon–that she was a frumpy, ugly religious fanatic who would have killed Anne Boleyn if she had the chance–to reveal a woman of great intellect, power, and courage.
Although Katherine of Aragon is no saint, Shadow casts a sympathetic eye on her. After years of being doted on by the fickle monarch only to be tossed aside by Henry VIII because he wanted a male heir, Katherine uses the only weapon available to her: the protection of her male relatives. In order to secure the throne for her daughter, Mary, and hold on to her power in the face of the rising Boleyn faction, she makes the heartbreaking decision to tell her nephew Charles V about her mistreatment.
Unfortunately, not even Katherine’s bravery could save her from years of neglect and misery. With a deft hand, Plaidy brings the poor Queen’s heartache to life to the point where even if you’re Team Boleyn, you’ll still feel sorry for Katherine.
Thankfully, unlike other historical fiction novels that rely on the “long-suffering wife/evil temptress tropes,” both Katherine and her rival Anne are shown as well-rounded women who only did what they had to do in order to survive Henry’s volatile wrath.